Facebook recently announced plans to develop ‘smart glasses’ to expand its virtual presence and become more than just a social media platform. So, we decided to explore the unsteady rise of smart glass technology to find out if there’s a place for Pick-by-Vision in the warehouse.

Google was the first to pioneer smart glasses by releasing the now-infamous Google Glass in 2014. These glasses displayed information in a smartphone-like, hands-free format that wearers could communicate with via voice commands. However, the product flopped in the consumer market. 

Despite the failure of Google Glass, the concept of Augmented Reality (AR) has continued to grow. According to Gartner, AR is “the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects.” It is these real-world elements that differentiate AR from virtual reality.

Most recently, AR has been popularised by Google’s 3D animals, which gives mobile users the ability to see life-sized versions of animals within their homes.  

All of which is good fun, but how can AR fit into a wholesale environment?

Easily it would seem. Google has now realised the full potential of their Google Glass within a business environment and has released Glass Enterprise Edition 2. General Electric Healthcare, DHL and Coca Cola are some of the many businesses already utilising the technology, and productivity across these businesses has increased between 8 – 46%.

Pick-by-Vision or Vision Picking is how this new approach is being labelled. It can of course be used across all warehouse functions, from Goods-in and Replenishment to Picking and Shipping. As a result, these devices are providing:

Reduced error rates
Devices show a picture of the product sought in the field of view and automatic double-checking can be quickly done, e.g., with automated recognition of a product, storage location etc.

More flexibility
Devices offer a hands-free solution, and information can be displayed anywhere in the warehouse, at any time.

Improved reliability
Less concentration is required as instructions are received via the glasses. They also provide opportunities for users to share a video or a photo of a product defect or issue.

Increased speed
Users can avoid unnecessary travel as the best route is shown on the device. Decreasing error rates means re-work is not needed.

Devices are suitable for everyone to use.  

Being hands-free, it can be safer for users as the devices provide feedback and information regarding the immediate environment and warn of danger.

However, as with all new technology, there are still some teething issues to be worked out to make these devices work perfectly within a warehouse environment.  

Firstly, the built-in microphones do not provide speech recognition as good as a traditional Voice WMS Headset with noise-cancelling capabilities. Speech recognition accuracy is critical in any warehouse with a high level of noise. Imperfect noise-cancelling and recognition accuracy may lead to errors or the inability to recognise the user’s speech.

Secondly, smart glasses provide image-based barcode reading with a built-in camera. However, image-based scanning is slower and less accurate than traditional barcode scanning. Thus, modern smart glasses still often use external scanners to speed up processing.

Lastly, intensive use drains the battery. One battery charge is not currently enough for a full shift. Therefore, some manufacturers of smart glasses provide external battery packs, but this is more for users to carry.

Are you considering AR technology in your warehouse? If you would like to discuss smart glass technology or any other opportunities to make your warehouse more efficient, please contact us using the form below.